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Fischler Report: Three NHL Coaches on the Sizzling Hot Seat

Stan Fischler and friends list the worst NHL trades ever, rank the top three coaches on the hot seat, meet the founder of a bagel deli with a hockey twist and more.
Craig Berube

SIX MONDAY MUSINGS OVER A MAMMOTH WEEKEND

1. Here's why Dallas (5-1 over Philly) and Boston (5-2 over Canucks) win plenty. Super goaltending. The Stars' Jake Oettinger's save percentage (.938) leads the league while the B's Linus Ullmark is NHL tops with 11 wins.

2. Tampa Bay – 6-3 over Washington last night – has all the goods again to go far, except for one pivotal factor. They played a whole 2021-22 season and then went all the way to the final. Once again attrition is the Bolts’ biggest challenge.

3. I know at least two GMs who have to be delighted that they didn't wind up with Johnny Gaudreau.

4. "They didn't go in for us last night," wrongly lamented Vincent Trocheck after his Rangers lost 2-1 in Nashville. What he should have said was "Their goalie (Juuse Saros) was a darn sight better than our guy (Jaroslav Halak) by a ton."

5. Devils fans chanting an apologetic, "Sorry Lindy" on Saturday for their misguided, opening game "Fire Lindy" demands is a "first" in my book. Kudos to Ruff for accepting the apology.

6. The tributes to the late Peter McNab – by the Bruins – and Toronto's celebration of ailing hero, Borje Salming, were the kinds of events that make the hockey family so very special among sports. (See Gus Vic story on Salming below.)

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THE SIX WORST TRADES OF ALL-TIME

This was a real toughie. So tough, in fact, that The Maven drafted historian-authors George Grimm and Sean McCaffrey for their help on this. We expect plenty of disagreement which is fine with us. That's what these lists are all about:

6. RICK MIDDLETON TO BOSTON FOR KEN HODGE: Under John Ferguson's managership of the Rangers, Fergie felt that he needed to give his crack center Phil Esposito a boost. Young forward Rick Middleton not only wasn't living up to expectations but – according to Rangers president Bill Jennings – was enjoying Manhattan nightlife more than focusing on his hockey.

Expecting that Middleton would not amount to much, Fergie dealt Middleton to Boston for Espo's ex-productive linemate Ken Hodge. As it happened, Middleton emerged as a superstar in Beantown while Hodge flopped badly on Broadway.

5. BILL GADSBY FOR LES HUNT. From his rookie year with the Chicago Black Hawks, Calgary native Bill Gadsby had star written all over him. His career continued upward after he was dealt to the Rangers. But, for some strange reason, the Blueshirts brass thought he had lost either a step, an edge or both. In any event, the New Yorkers had a notion that they would be better off with a D-man named Les Hunt.

They were not – not by a long shot nor a slapshot. Gadsby's very good game got even better in Detroit and, eventually he became such a superior player that, in time, Gads was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Hunt simply could not make it in the bigs.

4. MIKE RIDLEY AND KELLY MILLER TO CAPS FOR BOBBY CARPENTER AND A SECOND-ROUND PICK (JASON PROSOFSKY)

In his brilliantly researched three-volume series, Tricks Of The (Rangers) Trade, historian-author Sean McCaffrey spends no less than eight pages detailing why this was one of the all-time baddies. The underrated Ridley and Miller emerged as aces with the Capitals while one-time Sports Illustrated cover boy Carpenter was an instant disaster for then-GM Phil Esposito. 

Carpenter played only 28 games for the Blueshirts before eventually being dispatched to the L.A. Kings. "There are many reasons why Esposito failed as the head honcho of the Rangers," said McCaffrey. "This trade was the biggest reason. It's a trade the Rangers would never recover from in Esposito's tenure."

3. PATRICK ROY AND MIKE KEANE TO COLORADO FOR ANDREI KOVALENKO, MARTIN RUCINSKY AND JOCELYN THIBAULT.

Like Jacques Plante – arguably the greatest goalie in Montreal history – Patrick Roy was a goaltending genius who wound up clashing with management. And, like Plante, Roy was traded away on the assumption that he was over the hill.

Far from it. Patrick's goaltending remained on the highest level, and in 2001, he out-goaled the outstanding Devils goalkeeper Martin Brodeur to win the Stanley Cup.

By contrast, the Habs obtained quantity but not quality.

2. PHIL ESPOSITO, KEN HODGE, FRED STANFIELD TO BOSTON FOR GILLES MAROTTE, PIT MARTIN AND JACK NORRIS. Some respected analysts have called this "The Most One-Sided Trade in History." In a sense, they had a point. The Bruins – already staffed with future Hall of Famer Bobby Orr – quickly became a powerhouse. The Espo-Orr duet traumatized enemy goalies while the large Hodge fit perfectly as Phil's linemate. 

Underrated throughout his career, Stanfield proved to be a perfect second-line forward. By contrast, Norris was a mediocre goalie, Marotte a subpar defender while Martin showed occasional flashes of stardom but, for the most part, seemed to have a “Batteries not included” sign inside his jersey. The Bruins won Stanley Cups in 1970 and 1972 with their Chicago gift basket.

1. THE WORST. MAX BENTLEY TO TORONTO FOR GUS BODNAR, GAYE STEWART, ERNIE DICKENS, BUD POILE AND BOB GOLDHAM. Maple Leafs boss Conn Smythe had two superior centers in Syl Apps and Ted Kennedy, scoring a 1947 upset Stanley Cup with them over the Canadiens. Smythe figured that with one more ace down the middle, he might win more silverware.

Smythe took a huge gamble and delivered a complete forward line (The Flying Forts) including Poile, Stewart and Bodnar along with a complete defense unit of Goldham and Dickens. As Smythe had hoped, his three future Hall of Fame centers paced Toronto to a second straight Cup in 1948. (Smythe called it "My greatest team.") 

Although Apps retired after the ’48 win, Bentley spurred the Leafs to additonal championships in 1949 and 1951. While Chicago appeared to have a well-balanced team with their five acquisitions, they missed the playoffs every single year the Toronto package played for the Windy City sextet. However, after being later dealt to Detroit, Goldham's career improved but not so much as reaching a Hall of Fame level.

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THE COACH'S HOT SEAT SIZZLES IN NOVEMBER

History has shown us that owners become alarmed between the Canadian and American Thanksgivings. If their teams are not playing up to what the boss believes is their potential, he just might say, "Thanks, but Thanksgivings or no Thanksgivings, or misgivings, You're gone." And since it happens virtually every year, why should November 2022 be different? With that in mind, we asked Sean (I Don't Want To Get Behind A Bench) McCaffrey to discern which coaches should "Beware of the Chair."

1. Craig Berube: If one is to believe the oddsmakers, the man behind the St. Louis bench had better win more games than one in a row.

Most famously known for leading the Blues to the Stanley Cup in 2019, Berube hasn't made it past the second round since. His problem, in a sense, is that entering the 2022-23 campaign, many "experts" pegged the Blues as a playoff contender. Currently, they are dead last in the Western Conference.

Meanwhile, two other teams from the Central Division – both thought to be favorites in the "Connor Bedard Sweepstakes” – the rebuilding Blackhawks and Coyotes, are outplaying Berube's disappointing club. Since rock bottom isn't acceptable, it's not unreasonable to assume that perhaps a new voice is needed. GM Doug Armstrong may find a new pair of pipes soon.

2. Bruce Boudreau: By now, everyone is aware of the jolly coach and his situation in Vancouver. Hired last December, Boudreau immediately pulled up the nose of the Canucks. That was the good news. The bad news is that he's currently on a one-year contract that hasn't been renewed. What's even worse his boss Jim Rutherford's most recent comments about the coach sound more like a vote of no confidence.

It says here that Cousin Brucie had better win his next game or three. If not, expect Rutherford and his aide Patrik Allvin to write out a pink slip with a "Nice Try Last Season" as a postscript.

3. D.J. Smith: while you don't see the words "sexy" and "Ottawa" go hand-in-hand very often, as if they were "peanut butter and jelly" heading into the season, the Senators were the "sexy" pick of many as the team most likely to improve. Improve? If anything, they've disproved. They appear to be the same-old Sens as the second-worst team in the Eastern Conference. P.S. They also have the worst record in the Atlantic Division. With new ownership ahead, Smith's fate is about as tenuous as a gossamer string. Then again, the same holds for the team's GM, Pierre Dorion.

P.S. Brad Larsen in Columbus gets a "bye" because of an awful load of injuries.

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I'M JUST SAYIN'

* How about how Florida's Brandon Montour has stepped up during Aaron Ekblad's absence? In 11 games without Ekblad, Montour has gone 3-11-14 (1-6-7 in the last two games) and is second in the NHL only to Drew Doughty in average ice time per game.

* When a "Michigan" goal is scored – likely by Trevor Zegras – and is ruled offside, as recently happened, it should be called "a Wisconsin." Or "a Canarsie."

* I like the fact that a couple of my favorite defensemen – P.K. Subban and Thomas Hickey – are smoothly segueing into the broadcast booth.

* P.K. IS OK with his new ESPN deal while Hickey has surfaced as an instant ace with MSG Networks' Islanders telecast working with my pal Shannon Hogan.

* Matt Murray was explaining his latest goaltending injury to Toronto reporters. "It came from out of nowhere," Double M said.

* Frankly, I'm neither a doctor nor a geographer, but when a goalkeeper says his wound is "from nowhere," I locate "Nowhere" as the place where butterflies live.

* How can anyone not be tickled pink over Rick Bowness backing the Jets into a winning mode? (Well, yeah, come to think of it, teams he beats can't be too ecstatic.)

* I wasn't holding my breath for a "World Cup," were you? There are far too many European complications to dream about it.

* Another expression I can do without = bar down. (Unless it's referring to Mickey Walker's Bar, down the block from the Old Garden.)

* Department of Bad Jokes: Alexander Mogilny is not in the Hall of Fame and Daniel Alfredsson is.

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THE SECRET TO THE DEVILS SUCCESS

To the astonishment of everyone who picked New Jersey to finish seventh out of eighth (Philly) in the Met Division, the Devils are cruising on a nine-game winning streak. Their Saturday night win over Arizona has fattened the Garden Staters’ record to 12-3-0 as Lindy Ruff's sextet sits atop the favorites. Two of our on-the-Newark-scene reporters, Glenn (Chico) Resch and Leo (The Lion) Scaglione, Jr. explain "The Jersey Bounce." Roarin' to go first, Leo leads off this way:

"The Devils successful start has been a combination of a system built on speed, strong defense and solid goaltending. Jesper Bratt has carried over his excellent play from last season. Nico Hischier is evolving into a heck of a leader and player. Jack Hughes continues to ascend.

"Defensively, John Marino has been a steal in the Ty Smith trade. The contrast is insane. Dougie Hamilton is fully healthy and it’s showing. He’s playing his best hockey as a Devil. Ryan Graves and Jonas Siegenthaler continue to play well all around. Damon Severson isn’t being relied on much, but he’s still reliable back there.

"Goaltending has been excellent. Vitek Vanecek has been stellar, especially in the clutch. He’s helping hold leads and when trailing is keeping the team in the game with some crucial saves. Mackenzie Blackwood was playing well, as well, before his injury. It's a completely opposite scenario from a year ago when Blackwood was battling his heel injury. Let’s hope Vanecek’s injury scare is over quicker than a sneeze. For now, Akira Schmid is filling in perfectly.

"As for Lindy, he was a victim of wrong place, wrong time. The team hasn’t won a playoff series since Adam Henrique scored his memorable OT goal. They have only appeared in one series since 2013 in 2018 against Tampa. The fans were angry. Two games and two losses and Lindy was the target. Well, times quickly changed. He has the horses now and his system - and his support system, too - fit the talent of this group. There were "Sorry Lindy" chants on Saturday night. When has that ever happened? It wasn’t his fault the team used seven goalies last year. The seeds were planted and needed time to grow. Now we are seeing the fruit of their work. Kudos to Lindy."

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And here's the Chico Resch X-Ray:

"What the Devils have is a group of 10 really special players. Each has a different role but – as a group – each is well suited to be difference-makers in his role.

They are, in fact, much like the 1974-75 Islanders of which I was a proud member. We not only made the playoffs for the first time that season, but we then knocked off the Rangers and Penguins in successful series.

"Plus, we took Philly to a seventh game before losing that semifinal series. Some teams have a core (a trunk) of veteran players and have to graft in some young players to win the Cup, much like the current Rangers. They are built on a core of really good middle age veterans, but they require the young players to take them over the hump.

"But all the Devs need is more experience while grafting in a couple of veteran players when they get close to challenging for the Cup. And remember, there are some potentially better than average defenseman coming to the team in the next two years."

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Yays and Boos

YAYS AND BOOS:

YAY TO MARTIN BRODEUR for being named the Devils VP Of Hockey Operations. Marty is the right guy with the right team and with the right job.

BOO TO THOSE UPSET OVER THE 'NO WORLD CUP' DECISION: Hey, it wasn't an easy choice for either the NHL or the union. but – as the saying has been put forward – "in the current environment" the games simply cannot be played.

BOO TO THE EDMONTON FAN who – in a Tweet – smeared Captain Connor McDavid with the label "Connor McSelfish." "McSelfish?" (I’d call him "Connor McTeam!")

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FINDING THE RIGHT OWNER FOR THE SENS; NOT NECESSARILY RYAN REYNOLDS EITHER

Writing in The Athletic, reporter Ian Mendes has given the big push for actor Ryan Reynolds to buy the up-for-sale Senators although Mendes does not mention any other potential buyers. The Maven happens to know at least one of them. Nevertheless, here are a few snippets from Mendes' push.

In the span of a week, Reynolds’ interest in the Senators has gone from a vague single emoji on Twitter to a full-court press. And on Tuesday evening, he dropped into the Canadian Tire Centre, where he was given a massive ovation when he was welcomed in the first TV timeout of the contest. At ice level, Senators players were banging their sticks against the boards to join the chorus of applause inside the arena.

This surprise appearance in Ottawa came less than 24 hours after Reynolds appeared on The Tonight Show and publicly expressed his interest in owning a portion of the team.

The Senators have always suffered from “little sibling syndrome,” geographically stuck in between the two most storied Original Six franchises in Montreal and Toronto. But bringing Reynolds on board could help alter that power dynamic. It won’t erase the decades of history those franchises have on Ottawa, but it will significantly change the perception of Ottawa as the sleepy, boring government town that fun forgot. Even the most obstinate Canadiens or Maple Leafs fan would concede that Reynolds owning a piece of the Senators would improve Ottawa’s street credit in NHL circles.

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WHY RYAN REYNOLDS WILL NOT GET THE OTTAWA OWNERSHIP SO FAST.

While Ryan Reynolds may seem – remember the word seem – to have the resources to amass an ownership team to purchase the Senators, the brakes must screech to a halt in terms of the reality of his bid.

Glamor, the guy has got, and the enthusiasm, for sure. But this much is certain – there's a long line of competitors out there who'd like a crack at the club. The difference is that the other prospective suitors are going about the business – as they should – discreetly and without any of the Reynolds fuss and fanfare.

While such a sale may seem to be a simple matter, it's far from it and nobody will learn this fact of life faster than Reynolds, himself.

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WHO SAID IT? "My wife made me a millionaire. I used to have three million." (ANSWER BELOW.)

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BIG QUESTION: Does goalie Chris Osgood belong in the Hall of Fame?

BIG ANSWER: A definite yes, The guy's won three Stanley Cups, and he's the only goalie in history to win more than 400 games and lose fewer than 250. 'Nuff said!

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SPECIAL HOCKEY PEOPLE – DONALD ROSNER, THE ISLES BAGEL MAN

In my quest to discover 'Special Hockey People,' The Maven'' found a once-in-a-lifetime combination of hockey-bagel-deli joint in Huntington, Long Island with a fascinating founder, NHL cashew, Donald Rosner. The following is his story – via chapter headings:

HOW IT STARTED: "I just love hockey and not just the Islanders – I adore The Game. My dream is to become an assistant GM of the Isles, but since that may never happen, what I'm doing now with my hockey-oriented bagel-deli is a way to get close to my favorites and make a business out of it as well. My family's bagel business turned out to be what put me on the road to what now is Blue Line Deli and Bagels. It's wall-to-wall hockey with food and drink to go with it."

CONNECTION OF FAMILY, BAGELS AND PUCKS: "Once I realized that playing hockey was not in my future, I went to work for my family business, Bagel Boss, alongside my Dad and uncles, they taught me the business and I learned all about making bagels and deli stuff. But after 25 years with them, I felt that I needed a change and wanted to do something with my passion for hockey. What I did was combine what I knew – bagels, deli and hockey – and designed the business. Then, I hoped for the best."

TURNING CONCEPT INTO REALITY: "I figured that if I could open a place with great food and loaded it with hockey memorabilia and fun things hockey, fans would come in, and throughout my day, I would get to talk hockey with people. I also was determined that the food would be great so that people would come back. So, I've been able to share my love of the Islanders and hockey with others who feel the same, while serving good food in a unique way."

THE UNIQUE HOCKEY ASPECTS: "I have honored my heroes with sandwiches with their names and have created 'Islanders Bagels,' which have turned out to be our bread and butter. I created a bagel that has the Islanders classic colors of orange and blue which, incidentally, also are now being sold at the Isles' home, UBS Arena. I've also created blue and orange cookies and cupcakes as well. We also work with other Islanders fans such as Ashleigh Campbell who created blue and orange chocolates, cocoa bombs and other hockey-type goodies."

CELEBRITY CUSTOMERS: "We've had – and continue to have – incredible folks visit the store. They include such as the Islanders past stars like Bobby Nystrom and Butch Goring as well as the MSG Networks personalities, Brendan Burke and Shannon Hogan, not to mention co-owner Jon Ledecky. Each time Jon comes, he gives me a big hug, talks to the staff and even brings us Islanders hats. Every time I see all of them, I'm reminded just how amazing people in the hockey world really are."

SURPRISES THE STORE HAS BROUGHT: "It's been an amazing ride. In fact, I couldn't have imagined the attention we've gotten since I opened the place just to get more hockey into my life. The fan community is massive and, sometimes, we get so many voices that it's hard to be heard."

CHARITABLE WORK: "We do a ton of giveaways and raffles. We want to help others and were able to raise $12,000 for a cancer fund in one raffle. There are many people in our community who want to help. During the COVID crisis, we went all over Long Island – to hospitals, first aid squad, police stations, even to the morgue – for the folks working over there. It was a beautiful thing to do, and it kept me moving and wanting to do more. I'm forever grateful to the Islanders fans who came to my store to help us help the frontliners."

SELF-GRATIFICATION: "I feel that if we can help the NHL grow, it will make the game bigger and better, and we're proud to do our part not only for the league but for the Isles as well. We've raised over $50,000 for charities which, to me, is our most amazing achievement. That and, of course my masterpiece, creating the orange and blue Islanders bagel."

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LETTERS: This one's from Mike Rubin in Tennessee:

When I was a kid, the only bad thing about playing back-to-back games was the chill of Long Johns that hadn't dried overnight. NHL stats tell a different story: performance suffers when teams play on consecutive days. Points per game and goal differentials improve eight to 20 percent with one or two days off between matches.

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CHECKING OUT THE MAJOR JUNIOR POWER IN OREGON

As normally is the case, the Portland Winterhawks rank among the most successful major junior franchises on the continent. Under the leadership of coach-GM-VP Mike Johnston, the club once again is off to a dynamic start. At last look, the Hawks boasted a 13-1-1-1 record, fortified with excellent pro prospects.

They include Luca Cagnoni on defense. Over 16 games, he's tallied seven goals and 10 assists as well as four straight multi-point games. He's eligible for the 2023 NHL draft and received a "B" rating from Central Scouting last month.

Among the better forwards, Gabe Klassen, 19, and Robbie Fromm-Delorme, 20, lead the way. Klassen leads Portland with 14 goals in 12 games while Fromm-Delorme is the best points man, having 26 in 16 games. Both are undrafted.

An undrafted 20-year-old, Dante Giannuzzi is the Hawks starting goalie. His record is 8-1-1 with a .881 save percentage and a 3.28 GAA.

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ANSWER TO WHO SAID IT? Bobby Hull.

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